By Jubin Katiraie
One of the controversial items announced this week by President Hassan Rouhani as part of Iran’s 2020 budget is the funds set aside for so-called cultural institutions affiliated with the regime.
These institutions are tasked with promoting the mullahs’ ideology, justifying the crimes of the authorities and their repressive forces such as the Basij, preventing defections in their ranks and spreading fundamentalism and terrorism abroad.
According to the Farhikhtegan newspaper, affiliated to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: ‘The Seminary Service Center with 799 Billion Tomans, the Supreme Council of Seminaries with 345 Billion Tomans, the Al-Mostafa Community with 308 Billion Tomans, the Islamic Culture and Communications Organization with 200 Billion Tomans, the Islamic Advertising Organization with 200 Billion Tomans, the Sisters’ Seminary Policy Council with 192 billion Tomans, Supreme Leader’s delegations in Universities with 129 Billion Tomans, Guardian Council with 125 Billion Tomans, Art Seminary with 87 Billion Tomans, and Khorasan Theological Seminary Planning Board with 85 Billion Tomans are the 10 public entities with the most budget.
The Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization with 6.8 billion tomans, assembly Experts secretariat with 7.2 billion tomans, Imam Sadegh University with 13.3 billion tomans, prayer headquarters with 16 billion tomans, Islamic Encyclopedia Foundation with 9 billion tomans, Khomeini Research Institute and the Islamic Revolution with 9.9 billion Tomans and the Islamic Jurisprudence Institute with 5 billion Tomans also have a considerable share of Iran’s budget.
These entities are part of the so-called scientific and cultural institutions, while this newspaper does not refer to Khomeini’s publishing house and other so-called Khomeini and Khamenei cultural institutions and their budgets.
Another case of the faction’s fights is the state-owned companies’ budget, which according to the Farhikhtegan newspaper reports, their budget, “will be around 1483 billion tomans for next year.”
The Hamdeli newspaper while criticizing the budget bill, and the budget increase of state-owned enterprises said: “From the view of many economic planners, the most difficult conditions for budget-writing is the raise of the budget of the state-owned enterprises by 16 percent. This raises the question, why some of the institutions that their effectiveness is in doubt have a budget increase, but they are not helping in the taxation to contribute to offsetting the budget deficits.” (Hamdeli, 10 December 2019)
#Employees’ Taxes Make Up 9.6% of Iran’s Income While Astan Qods Conglomerate Contributes Just 0.01% https://t.co/Tt3a87PCUi via @iranfocus #Iranfreedom #freeiran #MEK #Iran @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/3mszrPM18k
— Iran Focus (@Iran_Focus) November 28, 2019
In this regard, the Kayhan wrote: “Interestingly, many state-owned companies are suffering, and many banks are actually bankrupt; These state-run entities face numerous problems that could lead to their downfall; however, a lot of government funding goes to these companies and banks.” (Kayhan, 9 December 2019)
The allocation of the 4200 currency rate (4200 tomans to the US dollar) to import a number of goods over the past two years has only produced corruption and its profits are entirely in the pockets of government-owned entities and companies, and the loss is to the poor people whose livelihood the Rouhani government claims to support.
“In the 2020 budget bill, there is the talk of the 4200 currency which leads to the production of rent and the rise of corruption in the country for the coming year,” the newspaper Jahan Sanat wrote on 10 December 2019.
Another controversial issue that is raised every year is the tax breaks and tax evasion of institutions such as Astan Quds, Revolutionary Guards, Martyr Foundation and others.
These institutions are mostly affiliated with the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and despite their huge incomes, they are not forced to pay any taxes.
The Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, in a tweet, pointed out this issue and wrote, “Will the Armed Forces, the Astan Quds, and the Executive Board pay taxes in the year that the ‘Endurance budget or austerity’ is closed?’ And what about foundations? Over 16 billion, then what is the story of ‘endurance’? Enduring tax evasion.” (Hamdeli, 10 December 2019)
Despite the fact that the government is increasing the pressure on people every year to finance its government, apart from the mentioned entities which are exempt from taxation of more than 50 billion tomans, the regime also confesses that there are 16 billion tomans of tax evasion. It is all about the government’s affiliates.
According to a government expert, canceling these tax exemptions due to the ‘106 billion deficit elimination tax cut’ is a good opportunity to “offset the deficit”, and if the tax exemptions are eliminated “there will be no need for oil sales revenue”, and “oil revenue can be spent on development projects.” (Hamdeli, 10 December 2019)
In contrast to this massive plunder of the people, the Rouhani government only plans to increase staff salaries by just 15 percent in 2020.
This small contribution to raising their salaries is amid rising inflation and the price of commodities, especially the basic commodity basket, which is steadily rising.
In this regard, the Ebtekar newspaper wrote: “The annual increase in salaries against the inflation in the economy will be negligible, and this raises the challenge for the people to live with. Many experts believe that such increases not only cause pain but also cause many problems. This increase is projected to be at least 15 percent for next year, said the Head of Planning and Budget Organization.” (Ebtekar, 10 December 2019)
In a word, the ‘enduring’ budget continues to serve the oppressive forces and the oppressive institutions of the regime and will empty the pockets of the deprived people.